Converting Supply Chains into Value Chains

In the past two decades, services companies in India have followed different paths to scale up and grow in the global market. Many of them went with the strategy of scaling up offshore delivery across various horizontal services coupled with industry-specific capabilities, some of them focused on specific verticals, and a few others focused on developing expertise in niche functional areas.

Looking back at the growth trajectory of some of these companies and their potential for the future makes an interesting study.

Finding the sweetspot in the supply chain market

Irfan A. Khan, President and CEO

Irfan A. Khan, President & CEO, Bristlecone

San Jose-based Bristlecone, part of the Mahindra Group, is one such company that focuses on supply chain management. Irfan A Khan, President & CEO, Bristlecone, describes the company’s mission thus: “We convert supply chains into value chains—by increasing visibility, enhancing analytics, improving monetization, streamlining procurement, and rationalizing expenditure.”

Bristlecone is a company with the mixed lineage of an Indian business house and an American start-up. When the Mahindra Group implemented SAP ERP across various companies of the group in the mid-1990s, the ERP and related skillsets were hived off into a unit then called Mahindra Consulting Services. The entity had the mandate of going beyond the group and nursed ambitions in seeking leadership in the global market, but it struggled for a few years for want of a strategic focus. In search of a differentiator in the global market, in 2004, the entity acquired Bristlecone Inc, a US based start-up focused on providing supply chain consulting and implementation services on the SAP platform in the US market.

Since then, Bristlecone claims to have completed more than 300 engagements across 20 different industry verticals with the company being ranked among the top 10 supply chain system integrators by Gartner alongside companies like Accenture, TCS, Infosys to name a few.

Bristlecone’s current portfolio of services comprise advisory services in integrated supply chain, analytics and information management, integrated sourcing & procurement, technology and integration, and managed services.

The company takes pride that with a team of 1650 supply chain specialists, Bristlecone would easily be the largest team with supply chain expertise in the world. Irfan adds that on many occasions Bristlecone is called in by some of the world’s largest companies to salvage the situation and clean up the mess left behind some of the world’s top consulting companies.

Shaping the future

Convinced that supply chain and procurement would continue to be high potential areas for the future, the company added analytics as a strategic focus area in the past few years by creating Neo as an analytics platform. Bristlecone has been developing IP around industries such as CPG, retail, hitech, manufacturing, and oil and gas in adapting and leveraging Neo for broad-based analytics applications. Irfan recently got an opportunity to present the power of Neo to the group. At the group’s annual war room with the chairman on strategy, budget, and operations, Neo pulled in rich data and analytics on the group’s operational performance across companies. The group chairman, Anand Mahindra, was impressed with Neo’s capabilities, Irfan said.

Recently, Bristlecone made plans to tap the Indian market. It has already signed on $45M contract in India to transform the supply chain of a large company and deliver supply chain-as-a-service. The Mahindra group continues to be the largest customer in India for Bristlecone, but Irfan did not confirm that the recent deal signed was with the parent group. The potential in India and APAC for procurement advisory is huge because the cost savings that can be demonstrated by optimizing procurement and supply chain is phenomenal.

Irfan is hopeful of taking the company public in a few years on the back of the growth witnessed in the past few quarters. Says Irfan, “We have had consistent and profitable revenue growth in the past 10-12 quarters and we have a very healthy balance sheet.” The company has been growing at 30 percent annually for the past few years with bookings growing at 100 percent and order pipeline growing at 50 percent clip, Irfan revealed.

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